Tags: Analysis: | How | Prevent | Election | Fiascos

Analysis: How to Prevent Election Fiascos

Sunday, 12 November 2000 12:00 AM

Don’t get me wrong. I have neither a problem with whoever wins, nor the decision resting with the Electoral College. The Electoral College is in place to prevent the election of a president on the basis of ballot stuffing and other forms of voter irregularity. More than ever, the Electoral College has been validated by this election.

The frustration I’m speaking of relates to the ballot process itself. The process has, in this election, polarized an entire nation, called into question the integrity of good people (Democrats and Republicans, alike), and cast uncertainty onto the democratic process, as a whole, by those who view our way of governing as being in conflict with their own ideals.

That having been said, I feel constrained to examine the process that put us into this malaise and propose ideas to rectify this problem for future generations.

As my wife is quick to remind me, states, not the federal government, govern their own voting processes. Given the turmoil this has caused, and the light it has cast upon an individual state, I submit that the U.S. Conference of Mayors would be anxious to start the ball rolling. From there, state legislators and governors could be lobbied for voting reform.

What I am suggesting is legislating continuity.

We have been witness to an amazing, and some would say disturbing, moment in American history. Hopefully we have been a part of the last election in modern time that will have been mired and called into question because of a lack of continuity. A lack of continuity in the ballots themselves; in absentee ballot procedures; in polling place times, etc. As such, a lack of continuity in electing our president.

First, individual counties across America have their own budget constraints to work within, and each is responsible for selecting the mechanism by which votes are cast and tabulated. That’s fine. Because each state also has its own election commission (perhaps called by different names), that commission must be charged with the responsibility of certifying that each county’s process is legally binding. The state party representatives should meet with the commission and together approve or recommend changes to ballots and certify the acceptability of the final version before an election takes place. Many already do this. As we have seen, many do not. A lack of continuity.

Second, all polling places must have people, preferably teams – one Democrat and one Republican to prevent accusations of impropriety – ready to assist anyone who needs help reading, understanding or completing their ballot. Most already do this, but let's require it, and require that each voter be offered assistance so he can’t claim later that he didn’t know help was available. Continuity.

Third, for states such as Florida and Nebraska that straddle time zones, split the polling time. For us, make it 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern; 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Central. Florida polls would open at the same moment and close at the same moment. This would prevent media manipulation of our desire to vote. Continuity.

Finally, on two fronts, comes the subject of absentee ballots.

Given recent Internet offers to literally buy your vote – sites offered to pay for absentee ballots – we need to require notarized ballots. When you vote in person, you must provide identification. Why should absentee voting be any less authenticated? Continuity.

Worst of all, having the country sit on its collective hands waiting for absentee votes to arrive and be counted is wrong. If you’re concerned enough about voting by absentee ballot to begin with, why can’t you accept the responsibility to make sure it’s received by voting day? It should be required. If a guy shows up at the polls on Wednesday morning, you don’t let him vote just because he started his journey on Monday. Continuity.

Run-off elections would be deemed too costly, and the media would cry foul over trying to prohibit exit polling. We can’t legislate that someone spend sufficient time in the voting booth to make sure he double-checks his ballot. There are still going to be unresolved issues. Let’s try to resolve the ones we can.

Whether we fix the process or not, one good thing has come from all this and is relatively certain. I think it will be many years to come before we hear anyone use the phrase "My vote doesn’t matter" again.

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Don't get me wrong.I have neither a problem with whoever wins, nor the decision resting with the Electoral College.The Electoral College is in place to prevent the election of a president on the basis of ballot stuffing and other forms of voter irregularity.More than ever,...
Sunday, 12 November 2000 12:00 AM
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